“There is no other position at Valier Schools that requires their employee(s) to take a pay decrease for their time and/or years of service. Yet when you look at the bus route drivers’ historic pay, that is what is happening,” stated Stacey Steele, Trans-portation Supervisor for Valier Public Schools. After listening to Steele’s presentation, the Valier School Board unanimously approved her request to increase the pay of the district’s three route drivers by $150 per year. The action came at the board’s Nov. 17 meeting.
According to Steele, the raise amounts to an 85-cent per day increase for the 178-day school year, or 24 cents per hour. The impact to the school district will be $450 total this year. The drivers’ sick and vacation leave benefits will remain the same.
School Clerk Mary Lundy said the increase was “very doable” this year and could go into effect immediately.
In her presentation, Steele pointed out route drivers have not received a cost of living pay increase during her six years as transportation supervisor. In seeking the wage increase for route drivers, Steele encouraged the board “to get on board by raising their bus pay to keep current drivers and encourage more people to desire to drive for Valier Schools.”
Steele also asked the board to increase the pay for the district’s activity bus drivers.
“School bus drivers carry the community’s precious cargo safely to and from school and activities in all kinds of road and weather conditions every day.” She explained the rigorous and time-consuming training and certifications route and activity bus drivers must acquire and/or pass to be a driver.
“Our small group of activity drivers are basically getting a slap in the face at this time. The activity drivers’ years of service, experience and loyalty to Valier Schools are not recognized nor are they given a cost of living raise,” Steele pointed out.
A former driver shared with Steele these thoughts after resigning her position. “I make more money per hour at the grocery store where I have no responsibility, per se, than (I do) driving the activity bus…Yet there is more mandatory training and responsibility behind the wheel with a busload of kids. And yes, we get paid during the event, but there are many trips out to the bus throughout the event for multiple reasons. People driving the activities are doing it because they enjoy it or it’s convenient. It’s definitely not because of the pay. In fact, if it paid better, you might get a better response for drivers.”
Steele had researched information on what other area school districts pay their activity bus drivers and presented it to the board. Members of the public offered comments supporting Steele’s request to raise the rate for activity bus drivers. Cole Peebles urged the board to “pay the people” who are transporting their children to school activities.
“How do you get anyone for $10 per hour?” asked Tammy VandenBos. Steele suggested the rate be increased to “no less than $16 per hour” and to re-evaluate the hourly wage “every couple of years.”
Board member Don Davis said he was “all for the raise” but agreed with Lundy that basing the activity bus driver’s wage on experience may create problems with “wage and hour” compliance.
The board tabled making a decision on increasing the wage for the activity bus drivers and asked the issue be put on the December meeting agenda.
Trustee Trina Bradley questioned if the board meeting dates and agendas could be posted on the district’s website. It was pointed out the website did not have updated information about the board meetings, which will be taken care of for future meetings. Lundy pointed out the agendas have never been posted on the website during her 13 years as clerk. Valier Superintendent of Schools Julie Gaffney said it would be possible to have the agendas posted on the website in the future.
In other news from the Nov. 17 meeting, the board:
•Accepted the resignation of Kurt Christiaens from the school board. Christiaens, who also served as vice chairman, no longer lives within the school district boundaries. The board unanimously approved Davis to be the new vice chairman.
Individuals interested in filling Christiaens’ vacant seat on the board should submit a letter of interest to Valier Schools Superintendent Julie Gaffney. As of press time, Cole Peebles and Erika Nefzger had submitted letters of interest.
•Rehired John Briggs as the Valier Schools’ fall football coach for the 2021 season.
•Hired Joe Monroe and Isaac Ramos as co-coaches of the Panther junior high wrestling team.
•Held first reading of the proposed Board/Staff Communications, Policy 1520. As of the night of the meeting, the policy had not been distributed to staff members for their input. The policy is available upon request from Lundy and will be presented again for discussion and possible adoption at the December meeting. A copy had been requested by The Valierian but as of press time had not been received.
•Revisited the issue of Valier Schools’ seven-point grading system vs. the more standardized 10-point system. After a lengthy discussion between the board, members of the public and school officials, the board decided to form a committee to study the issue. The committee will most likely include a board member, interested parents, one or two teachers, the school counselor and administration.
Members of the public who are interested in serving on the committee should contact Supt. Gaffney or local resident Amy Raines. The names of those interested will be presented to the board at their December meeting and the committee will be formed at that time.
•Supt. Gaffney updated the board on the recent student drug testing done by Big Sky Drug Testing, which she said went much smoother with the new protocol of taking a limited number of students out for testing at a time.
•Bradley requested the December agenda include an update on the process and procedure the school district would need to follow in order to change/update one of the bus routes to allow for children to be dropped off at one or both of the local daycares.